Saturday, April 7, 2012

Working Smarter: Are You in the Cloud?

My friends and colleagues often say, "Hey, Robin, you're a computer expert, can you help me ....?" I usually help if I can, but always tell them that anyone who says he or she is a computer "expert" is deluded. Some of us are more computing savvy than others, but the rate of change in information and communication technology is so fast it's humanly impossible to stay abreast.

When I first heard the term "cloud computing" I had a vague sense of what it referred to, but also remember thinking "what now?" I had already been using a form of cloud computing. I use Roboform Password Management software to store most of my passwords. It comes with an external storage facility ie, I store my passwords and what Roboform call safenotes on their server somewhere in the USA. When I use different computers (I have three), I can update each by synchronising from that external storage. It's a very convenient and very simple processs.

Firms like Google have been using the cloud for a few years now, providing online storage for millions of customers. Now there are increasing numbers of providers setting up simply to manage data on behalf of others. Google even has a notebook computer on the market that comes with almost no software and accesses everything it uses on a Google cloud server. In the near future you won't be able to buy a copy of MS Office or other software and download it to your hard disk. It will all be served from The Cloud.

Dropbox's speciality is managing your data on their cloud server. While I always have reservations about security of confidential information, I think it is well covered by the major players. They have multiple severs so that if one drops out, the data can be served from another, usually in a distant locality. If you are concerned about security, you can always encrypt your files before storing them.

Even if you have your own server with millions of gigabytes of data, you need a backup plan, so there are firms whose specialty is providing secure, multiple backup facilities.

The key advantage of cloud computing of course is that the data held therein can be accessed by anyone anywhere in the world 24/7/365. This is perfect for firms collaborating on projects eg, when programmers in India, Bali, the UK and Japan are working on building a software program. The latest version is always available to any of the stakeholders.

Dropbox provides a free option with, I think 2 GB and thereafter it's peanuts per month to store more data. One of the features I like about Dropbox is that you choose what folders you want automatically stored on their server. This allows you to be selective or to prepare files before they are transferred to the Dropbox server.

If you only used a cloud server to store your backup files, you'd be making a good decision. If you have a huge need to share files across states, countries etc, cloud computing is the way to go.

What do you think? Is cloud computing the way to go?


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1 comment:

  1. Dameon1:23 PM

    Cloud computing is indeed the way of the future. Everything will be on the cloud eventually. If we don't get a solar flare radiation or other incident that wipes out our electrical and electronic system, it will be fine.


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